| 2015 Q4 | story by DEREK HELMS | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
When Hank Booth started working at the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce in February 2015, he had one big, broad goal.
“We need to get more businesses to locate in our fair city,” Booth says, with his signature matter-of-fact tone. “I knew going into this adventure that recruitment was going to be a priority. We had a couple of speed bumps along the way, but when 2016 kicks off, I think we’ll be in a great position to get serious about a plan.”
Booth explains that when he was interviewing for the position, much of the discussion centered around what the city could do to attract new businesses.
“We made some real progress in terms of securing a plan, but some administrative changes delayed that a bit.”
The election of two new city commissioners and the resignation of City Administrator Chris Lowe have reshuffled the time line on securing an action plan on economic recruitment. Booth says ideas for recruitment are a major item of discussion in the ongoing interview process for a new city administrator.
“We had begun a solid plan of action at the beginning of the year,” Booth says. “But when your lead dogs change, you have to take a step back and evaluate the plan with new ideas. I’m very confident we’ll be moving forward very soon.”
Booth extols the selling points of the community and its 4500 citizens. He believes Baldwin City is in a strong position to compete for businesses in various industries and is working toward purchasing land to use as potential manufacturing sites.
“Right now, we have a very strong base of high-quality manufacturing in town,” Booth says. “But we do lack a construction-ready piece of land that we can promote to potential new tenants. I don’t want to get the cart ahead of the horse, but I’m confident we have identified a piece of land and a landowner who is willing to work with the city. That’s a long process, though.”
Baldwin City location and potential hiring base are two of the city’s strongest selling points, Booth says.
“We really couldn’t be in a better location in terms of potential distribution routes with our proximity to interstates, highways and the Kansas City metro area. Also, because of our location, we have a unique pool of potential workers within a 15- to 20-mile radius. When we get our plan finalized, I’m confident we’ll make big strides in bringing new business to town.”
While city officials are working on a proactive plan to bring new industries to Baldwin City, the town’s premier employer is in the process of filtering through hundreds of candidates for its few openings.
“We are very happy with our faculty recruitment efforts,” says Brian Posler, Baker University provost. “Our staff positions are almost always filled with community members from Douglas [County] or surrounding communities. Because of the talented workforce in the area, we don’t need to do much recruiting to fill those positions. When we hire a new faculty member, we open the search not just nationally but globally.”
Posler says the process of hiring an academic faculty member is less of a recruitment and more of a selection. The university’s strong reputation, combined with an ambitious pool of candidates, creates a positive position for Baker University.
“When we have a faculty opening, which only happens once or twice a year, we post on various higher education hiring sites,” Posler explains. “There are so many highly qualified candidates in the academic field looking for a tenure-track teaching position that it’s not uncommon for us to receive hundreds of candidates for a single opening.”
An individual selection committee is formed for each opening. The committees vary in size but always contain departmental leaders and the head of at least one other department. Finalists spend a few days on campus and are often invited to teach a class.
“We want potential hires to experience not only the atmosphere of our beautiful campus but the charm and draw of Baldwin City,” Posler explains. “By the time candidates get to campus, they have already learned about our university and its policies. We like for them to see the community. We’re proud of our town-gown relationship, and we think Baldwin City’s location and current developments are a strong recruiting tool for us.”